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Politics chat: Biden pleads for gun control; Trump adviser indicted


And today we start again with guns. President Biden made an urgent plea this week for Congress to reinstitute the ban on assault weapons, raise the age for buying semiautomatic rifles to 21, pass national red flag laws and strengthen background checks. In a speech to the nation, the president invoked one of the most disturbing stories about how one of the fourth graders survived the school shooting in Texas last week.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Imagine being that little girl, that brave, little girl in Uvalde, who smeared blood off her murdered friend's body on her own face to lie still among the corpses in her classroom and pretend she was dead in order to stay alive.

SIMON: And yet congressional Democrats and Republicans are still far apart on any agreement. NPR's Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: This is not language or images that are pleasant to begin the morning, are they?

ELVING: No. They are so much a part of our lives today. And with respect to Congress, there just is no chance of an assault weapon ban. If the Republicans were open to that, Scott, we'd still have the one that Congress passed way back in 1994. But the price for that deal was a 10-year sunset provision. And when we got to 2004, the Republicans were in the majority, and they just let that sun go down. So right now we have a nominal Democratic majority, but it takes 60 senators to proceed on legislation. The Democrats will need at least 10 Republicans to join them. So right now, the right - the best chance for some promising ground for a deal would be raising the gun purchase age from 18 to 21, as you mentioned a moment ago. Several of the most recent mass shootings have been done by 18-year-olds. But, you know, the NRA works its will every day on Capitol Hill. And just last night, Chris Jacobs, a Republican congressman who represents Buffalo, the scene of that horrific shooting at the grocery - this is a person who had said he would support an assault weapons ban, got a lot of blowback, pushback. Last night he announced his retirement. So, Scott, that's a wall trophy the NRA can put up now.

SIMON: Let me make an uneasy transition to asking about the economy 'cause new job numbers came out on Friday. Seventeen straight months of gains. Unemployment stayed even. But the stock market fell. Is that because they're more concerned about inflation?

ELVING: Lots of inflation fears, of course - inflation fears that turn into higher interest fears as the Federal Reserve tries to deal with that inflation. If the Fed goes too high too fast, we could find ourselves in another recession. And the irony is that everyone wants jobs to be plentiful, but full employment raises wages and benefits - more good stuff that also puts more money into the economy and contributes to more inflation, and here we are again.

SIMON: Another confidant of former President Trump was indicted for refusing to cooperate with the January 6 Committee. How does Peter Navarro figure into the January 6 events?

ELVING: He was apparently part of the conversation among Trump aides and members of Congress about how the election results might not necessarily have to be final. Without coming up with any evidence of any real problems with the vote, they came up with a scheme by which they thought they could perhaps invalidate that election and instead turn to some other alternative electors. Now, without getting into all the details of that, Peter Navarro has written about how that might be done. It's all been discredited by conservative legal scholars. We're going to hear from some of them as the January 6 Committee gets going next week on Thursday night with their first public hearings in prime time. So Peter Navarro is actually an economist, but he bonded with Donald Trump over anti-China policies that have been a longtime obsession of his since he got his Harvard Ph.D. And at this point, he's going to have to answer some questions about his involvement in that scheme that we mentioned a moment ago.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.